Tuesday, 26 January 2016

One Step Beyond

We can now officially call ourselves the parents of toddlers!

Eliza is now properly toddling about the place, and has all but given up on crawling. She very cutely waves her arms about in front of her as she goes, like she’s doing a little bodypopping dance. William is very solid when standing still, can go quite a way when holding a hand, and can manage a few steps without support (and looks very pleased with himself when he does), but still prefers his super-fast crawl and his penguin-waddle knee-shuffle for getting himself about.
We’ve bought them their first shoes - cue the obligatory big shoe/little shoe photo:
This means we can go for wanders outside - we all made it down to the end of our road yesterday afternoon, probably about 100 metres, and they were very excited to see a big red bus. Eliza only needed a hand-hold to guide her (and - I like to think - so that she knew we were there); William had great fun examining the latches on neighbours’ gates and cruising along their front walls. How long before we're merrily splashing through muddy puddles on countryside walks, I wonder.
And it's not just toddling that they can do now!

They’re getting really good at feeding ourselves without too much mess (E&W I mean - I still regularly spill stuff down my shirt). They love their porridge in the morning, shovelling it in like Gregg Wallace with a chocolate dessert. And for the first time ever the other day, we had a finger-food lunch where every morsel went into their little (or not so) bellies - nothing rejected, nothing splattered on the floor/walls/cat/me. And they merrily guzzle water from their Doidy cups - they do those little "Ah!" noises like us adults do when we have our first sip of tea in the morning.
STOP PRESS: I think typing the previous paragraph has tempted fate - for dinner tonight, Eliza chose to eat her cheesy scrambled egg only if it was presented on a small square of toast. She picked the egg off the top of the toast with her fingers...and come the end of the meal the toast went uneaten. Hopefully it was just a momentary fussiness!

While they’re not yet properly talking, they do now chatter away in twinese pretty much non-stop, and have their own distinct ‘words’ - ‘ca’ is ‘look’; ‘!CA!’ (the only way I can represent it in writing) is ‘cat’; ‘gu’ is ‘dog’; ‘ba’ is ‘sheep’, 'kak-ka' is duck, and so on. They’re also really good at understanding us - they’ll fetch a particular book or toy if suggested; William will give Eliza her Fudge (her beloved cuddly rabbit) if you ask him to; and Eliza will go hunting for her brother’s errant socks.

They’re also playing with toys properly now, too. Stacking cups get stacked; cars get zoomed around the floor; little people are wibbled about like little people living their little lives. It’s lovely seeing the two of them playing together.
And William still really loves his books, and now manages to hold them the right way up!
It's been fascinating watching them develop these skills. Quite often one of them will do something new, perfectly - and then not do it again for days, sometimes weeks. And when they do it again, it's almost as if they're saying "Oh, this old thing - yes, I can do that, I just choose not to".

At the weekend, one of our neighbours said "They're just like little people now", which is quite a bittersweet thing. While I love all these new discoveries, and look forward to what's still to come, there’s a quite a big part of me that hopes they don’t get too grown up, too independent, too soon. I’m sure every parent feels that way - both excited to see them grow and learn, yet a little sad that they’re no longer the tiny little things that used to fall asleep on my chest in the wee small hours of the morning, or simply doze off mid-wriggle on the rug. Heaven knows what I'll be like when it's time for them to leave home!

Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, give feedback, or make suggestions for what you'd like to see me write about (I'll happily do requests!) below - and please share this blog with anyone you think might be interested in it. Thank you!

Friday, 15 January 2016

New Year's Resolutions 2016

I like New Year's Resolutions. Not that I'm very good at sticking to them, mind you. Every year I set myself three resolutions, simply because I find it's a prompt to take a little look at my life and think about three changes I'd like to make that might just make me (and perhaps the world) a little bit better. So without further ado, here are my three for this year:

(If you're here just for the E&W photos, and not for my waffle, rest assured there are a few choice piccies dotted throughout this post.)

Resolution #1 - Spend more time offline
With my head hung in shame, I have to confess that there have been times when E&W have been merrily playing on the living room rug, and I've been off to one side flicking through new tweets and checking to see if anything exciting is happening in the Facebook world. And then there are the times when I could have been talking to Kate, or to friends and family, and instead I've been lost in an online world. That's just bad of me, plain and simple.

When we were down in Cornwall at Christmas I made a conscious decision not to ask for the wi-fi password. I knew that without it there'd be no way I could fire up Facebook or Twitter. It was incredibly liberating. I played with E&W; talked with Kate and Grandpa John and Granny Viv; helped out around the house a bit (cough); sat quietly with a cuppa and a biscuit and a good book; did some writing; did some thinking (not too much, it was supposed to be a holiday); just spent some time being. It was lovely.
Most of all, I surprised myself by not missing all the distractions and delights the internet brings to our fingertips one little bit.

So I've decided to limit my online time. To start with, I'm going to try and avoid accessing the internet - unless it's for something like checking the weather forecast (knowing if it's safe to put the washing out is very important to us SAHDs) - while E&W are up and about, and when in company. No email. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram. And I will try to avoid it completely on Sundays, too (what's known - apparently - as 'taking a Tech Sabbath'.)

#2 - Be a better friend
I've never been a particularly sociable person. In the time before E&W (aka BEW), Kate would often go out with her friends and I'd very happily stay at home with a DVD or a book, happy in and perfectly content with my own company.

But I do have a fantastic bunch of friends, as does Kate. I've highlighted some of the lovely things they've done in recent posts, which should give you an idea of how lucky we are with our extended family - to me, they're all Honorary Uncles and Aunts for E&W.
Since becoming an SAHD, I've realised how important friends are. There have often been days when I've not had any sort of adult communication - either real-word or virtual - between Kate leaving in the morning and her coming home in the evening, nigh on ten hours. That's probably not healthy. So I've recently been making more of an effort to get in touch with friends - a text message here, an email there (I'm not really the 'phone someone out of the blue just for a chat' type.) Hardly groundbreaking, but a step towards maintaining friendships and simply letting people know you care about them. I'm going to make sure I do more of this in the coming year.

#3 - Say Hello to a stranger every day
E&W and I - and Kate when she can - go out for a walk at around the same time every day, usually early or mid-afternoon (nap dependent). We tend to run into a lot of the same people each day - other parents, dog walkers, joggers, people out in their gardens. Over the months, we've got on "Hello" terms with a lot of them. It certainly brightens up a walk, seeing a familiar, friendly face and sharing a smile.
E&W are great icebreakers. It's not unusual for strangers to smile at them, and in turn me (and Kate), and often we experience all out, unreserved billing-and-cooing. And that's not just from the nice little old ladies - from big tattooed shaven-headed builders to raucous schoolchildren to smartly dressed distinguished business types, all sorts have cracked big smiles and made a fuss of them. Barriers come down, and the next time you see that person you nod and smile and say Hello. I know that puts a bit of a spring in my step, and I hope it does for the other person too.

So, I'm going to try and expand that network of Helloers, spread the friendliness, and say Hello to at least one new person each time we go out for a walk.

There we are then, my three resolutions for 2016. What do you think? Have you set any similar ones - we could be Resolution Buddies! Any ideas on how I can better achieve them? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Christmas and New Year 2015/16

We all had a great Christmas and New Year. We had a nice break - being guests at someone else's house means you're not constantly thinking "Should I be doing some housework rather than eating this biscuit and drinking this tea and reading this book?". And I chose not to ask for the wi-fi password, and spent a week away from the internet, fully embracing the real world and the fantastic people in it. Something I should do more of.

Grandpa John and Granny Viv live in one of those little villages where everyone says a hearty "Hullo" to you as you pass them, even if you're a complete stranger to them...which is really rather a nice thing to do. Something I should do more of. Christmas Eve morning, we strapped on the carrier backpacks (top tip: wide double buggies in narrow lanes frequented by tractors are not a good idea) and set out to the village playground. A battered van pulled into a lay-by to let us pass: we thanked the ruddy-faced, beefy driver, who cheerfully barked something incomprehensible in his lovely Cornish accent, then bellowed a heartfelt "Merry Christmas!" and sped off down the lane. Made me grin from ear to ear. As did this, a sprout-and-cranberry wreath on a cottage wall:
That's gone in my Christmas ideas notebook (yes, I know I said in my last post I was going to live in the moment and not think about next year, but...well...good ideas are good ideas, whenever you come across them!)

Christmas dinner was - as food always is when Granny Viv's the cook - a delicious feast. A very tasty nut roast and a luscious trifle. E&W didn't seem particularly sure of their party hats to begin with, but once they had food on their plates they were more than happy:
Boxing Day, we wrapped up warm and headed off to Cotehele, a local National Trust property, for some fresh air and much-needed exercise. E&W love being in their backpacks, although Eliza was in one of her 'I'm not impressed' moods (I will leave you readers to decide what moods you think Grandpa John and Granny Viv were in):

E&W got some lovely presents from Grandpa and Granny - a tea set, a wooden tool box set, some clothes, some little wooden toys. In fact, they've been very lucky and got a lot of presents for Christmas from friends and family - I won't list them all out here, but a huge thank you to everyone who was kind enough to think of them. Kate and I don't have large families, but we're rich in friends (to rip off It's A Wonderful Life. Again) and it's touching to see how much people dote on E&W.

Back home in Oxford, we packed in visits from and to family and friends, including Emma, who made a Gingerbread Family for us (including cat...I mean CAT!!):

I'm a self-confessed anti-social beggar, but I really enjoyed this part of the festivities. It's something I should do more of.

And there you have it - our Christmas in (quite a big) nutshell. 

My next post, which I hope to post by the end of next week at the latest, will be me announcing to the world my three Resolutions for 2016. If you're wondering what they might be, then Clue #1: I've covered them all in this post. Clue #2: if you thought I was repeating myself, then you're very warm.

And fear not, I've not forgotten the promised traditional Christmas jumper and socks photos (I know that's all you've read all this way for!):

Thanks for reading!

Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, give feedback, or make suggestions for what you'd like to see me write about (I'll happily do requests!) below - and please share this blog with anyone you think might be interested in it. Thank you!